The Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict
The real-world problem that will be analyzed in this paper is the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. To discuss this problem, the postcolonialism theory will be applied to put the rivalry between the two countries in the context of their common Soviet past. The theoretical concept at the center of the selected problem theorizing is the concept of language and culture domination. The choice of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is validated by its prolonged history and the lack of defined resolution, which necessitates a more in-depth investigation of the case using theoretical models. The postcolonialism theory is selected due to its scope of explanatory basis, allowing to tie the contemporary events to the colonization history. Finally, the concept of language and culture domination was chosen to narrow down the scope of the problem to the analysis of the tools used by Russia as a colonizer to control its former colonies. In the paper, it is argued that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is rooted in their long-term belonging to the Soviet Union, due to which the Russian involvement in the peace-making between the states still remains evident.
The problem under investigation is the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan called the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It started in the 1980-s and has been an ongoing geopolitical issue for the past three decades, leading to the second Karabakh war of 2020 (Iskandarov & Gawliczek, 2021). During the rule of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh region was a part of the Azerbaijan Republic, although it was mostly inhabited by Armenians. In the 1980-s, when the Soviet republics started their movement toward autonomy, the Nagorno-Karabach region requested separation from Azerbaijan and merging with Armenia, which became the cause of the conflict.
The Azerbaijani side was opposed to the annexation of the Nagorno-Karabakh territories, which is why military tension developed into a war between the two states from 1992-1994 (Iskandarov & Gawliczek, 2021). A peace agreement was signed between the two parties, with the international community involved in the achieved solution. Since then, “Armenia had occupied Azerbaijan’s territory, and Baku had tolerated for approximately thirty years with an expectation of peaceful settlement of the conflict (Iskandarov & Gawliczek, 2021, p. 92). In 2020, the conflict intensified with the emergence of a so-called second Karabakh war. During this 44-day war in 2020, Azerbaijan tried to liberate its claimed territories in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The conflict was peacefully resolved on November 10, 2020, with the agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Overall, on the international level, Russia and Turkey were involved in the conflict as supporters and peace-makers.
The theory of postcolonialism will help in interpreting the described problem from the perspective of the historical implications of the ties between the colonized and colonizer in the aftermath of imperial rule. The postcolonial theory focuses on the consequences of colonization for the nations that were under the burden of imperial rule and have exited it. According to Baylis et al. (2020), postcolonialism holds that “the modern world has been deeply shaped by experiences of empire and colonialism, particularly as conducted by European countries over the last five centuries.” (p. 161). The theory is a recently emerged direction in international relations because it aims at theorizing and conceptualizing the relational processes between states and nations as shaped under the influence of the colonization period. This approach allows for seeking “to understand things from the perspectives of the colonized/ formerly colonized and to challenge the ways that such people are often represented in mainstream approaches” (Baylis et al., 2020, p. 164). Thus, the postcolonial theory will be a valuable framework for analyzing the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan with the involvement of Russia despite the three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
One of the core concepts within the framework of postcolonialism theory is the concept of language and cultural domination. In particular, in the world’s politics, there are “ongoing political struggles which link their objectives to the overturning of imperial and colonial hierarchies” (Baylis et al., 2020, p. 174). This tendency demonstrates how old colonizers persist in dominating culturally and thus politically in formerly colonized territories. Since Russia as a colonizer continues to exhibit language and culture domination in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the use of this concept might be essential in understanding the conflict between the two countries through the application of postcolonialism theory. The concept of domination in language and culture as applied to the tactics of a colonizer draws on some broader conquering issues.
Through the use of the colonizer’s language and adherence to its culture, the population identifies itself as the one belonging to the colonizer, which gives former empires like Russia cultural ground to pursue their political goals. Thus, the choice of this concept in the context of the postcolonialism theory is validated by its multifaceted nature and the incorporation of several important factors essential for the interpretation of the conflict. Indeed, these determinants are culture, geography, history, politics, and identity. All of them play a central role in the postcolonialism theory since they draw on the complexity of ties between the colonized and colonizer in a long-term perspective.
The relations between nations and states in the modern world depend on a variety of factors, which derive from history, economics, culture, and other circumstances. Such relations are often characterized by conflicts, which are essential to study in order to understand their origins and design proper solutions. As it has been outlined, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has emerged on the basis of both countries’ formerly belonging to the Soviet Union, which was dominated by Russia. The development of the conflict and its reasons are closely tied to the influence of Russia on the territorial unity and national identity of both countries.
With both Armenia and Azerbaijan presenting conflicting arguments for owning these territories, the conflict long remained unresolved due to the ambiguity characteristic of the region. Indeed, the territory was inhabited by ethnic Armenians, which is why Armenia claimed to own the Nagorno-Karabakh region. However, since these people had long lived on the territories that belonged to the Azerbaijan Republic within the Soviet Union, the culture, language, beliefs, and history of the population became merging with those of Azerbaijan. Moreover, Russia used tactics of dividing and conquering, which is why it pursued people’s movement and replacement to hinder cultural identity and national unity. In addition, Russia used the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan to redraw the borders between the countries to relate the populations to it.
When placed in a broader context, the analysis of the conflict might reflect some geopolitical postcolonial processes. Indeed, during some conflicts in post-Soviet countries like Ukraine and Georgia, the politicians in those countries expressed a pro-western attitude towards Russia, which ended with occupation. However, politicians in Azerbaijan were aware of the Russian colonial tactics of the same fate as occupation, and therefore Azerbaijan chose to let them in as peacekeeping forces. At the same time, Armenia also chose Western policy, which made Russia angry and left Azerbaijan for 44 days to regain its occupied land. Russia has always allied with Armenia but was passive this time. Thus, Russia, as an old colonizer, changed the way it treated its countries as its former colonies in order to influence their political life and sustain its influence using language and culture as tools.
Baylis, J., Smith, S., & Owens, P (eds.). (2020). The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations (8th ed.).Oxford University Press.
Iskandarov, K., & Gawliczek, P. (2021). The second Karabakh war as a war of new generation. Journal of Scientific Papers Social Development and Security, 11(2), 91-99.